Take the Political Instability Task Force, funded by the CIA and based at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia. Since it was formed in 1994, it has used historical data on conflicts, political structures and economics to rate the stability of countries around the world. Details of the model are publicly available, but the forecasts that the task force hands to the CIA are not.
Monty Marshall, a member of the task force, says models tend to do well at simulating historical events, but fail when it comes to predicting future unrest. “I don’t know if any of these efforts have been successful, and if they have been we wouldn’t know about it because it’d be classified,” he says.
Wired has an article on this topic this week. It quotes Mark Abdollahian of Sentia Group, which has built dozens of predictive models for government agencies, saying: “All of our models are bad, some are less bad than others.”